Bruins roar back
Rally from 3-0 to clip Islanders
For the last three years, Phil Kessel had been the No. 3 triggerman in the shootout. Marc Savard, 2 for 13 lifetime in the shootout, had been mostly an afterthought. Savard, so intent on passing first that he has “Disher’’ branded on his sticks, had only three shootout attempts last season.
But at the start of this season, coach Claude Julien called Savard into his office to talk about the shootout.
“He’s like, ‘What is it? Are you nervous? You don’t like shooting?’ ’’ Savard recalled. “I said, ‘I love shooting. I’ve just got to be more patient.’ ’’
Last night, after leadoff shooter Blake Wheeler buried his attempt and Patrice Bergeron cranked a wrister off the post, Savard got his opportunity. In practice, the center had been working on a specific move: skating down the right side, curling into the slot, and looking either low blocker on the forehand or cutting to his backhand.
So when Savard skated in on Dwayne Roloson, he saw the Islanders goalie plant his right leg, taking away the lower part of the net. Savard knew that if he went the other way, the net would be open.
“When I saw him lock that leg on that side,’’ said Savard, “I knew I had him.’’
Savard backhanded the puck into the goal, Tuukka Rask stuffed Richard Park, and the Bruins swiped a 4-3 win before 17,113 at TD Garden. After 40 minutes of lifeless action, advancing to the shootout seemed like a far-fetched idea.
In the second period, Jon Sim, Radek Martinek, and John Tavares slipped pucks behind Rask to give the Islanders a 3-0 lead and provide the local leatherlungs enough reason to let the hometown team know their displeasure. The Bruins lost puck battles. They took too many penalties. They ran around in their zone. For the third time in four games, the Bruins had little emotional engagement.
“We were hearing a lot of boos there tonight,’’ Savard said. “It doesn’t feel good. So we went out there and got the cheers back.’’
During second intermission, Julien, who had kicked his players’ tails in practice Friday, had a simple message: “If you don’t want to play the way we should play, maybe we’ll keep getting the results that we have,’’ Julien told his players.
In the third, missing Dennis Wideman (left arm injury), the Bruins finally showed some spunk. Zdeno Chara jumped up in the play and set a screen on Roloson, allowing Savard to blast a slapper over the goalie at 11:59. One shift later, after Rask stopped a shot, Chara cleared the rebound, started the breakout, then joined the rush again, forcing Matt Moulson to take an interference penalty.
The Bruins didn’t score on the following power play, but Chara had thrown down the gauntlet to his teammates. They noticed.
“You just can’t talk enough about how Z played tonight,’’ said Matt Hunwick of Chara, who skated a game-high 29:38 and threw a team-best five hits. “You could see him physically exhausted after each shift because he was working so hard. We were down to five D’s and he just played tons. You look to certain guys for emotion. You see how hard he’s playing and if you’re not putting in that kind of effort, you’re letting him down and you’re letting your team down.’’
At 15:35, the fourth line made up for a previous mistake. In the second period, Shawn Thornton had the puck on the left-side wall. But before Thornton could get the puck deep, Freddy Meyer poked it off the wing’s stick. There was no blue-line support, which prompted Tavares to start a three-on-one rush and make it a 3-0 game.
But Thornton helped get the goal back in the third. As Byron Bitz shook off the check of Andy Sutton and curled into the slot, Thornton barreled toward the net and drew Meyer to him. Bitz backhanded a shot on goal that beat Roloson to make the score 3-2 and prompted Islanders coach Scott Gordon to call a timeout. It didn’t work.
With less than three minutes remaining, Blake Wheeler gave the puck to Hunwick at the point. The defenseman first thought about ripping off a one-timer. But the puck was bouncing toward him, so Hunwick had to settle it down. By then, the Islanders had filled the shooting lane and taken away Hunwick’s one-timer. So Hunwick took a slight step to alter the angle, then flipped a puck toward Roloson in hopes of a rebound or a tip. Hunwick needed neither, as the puck floated through traffic and sailed past Roloson at 17:26, evening the score at 3 and setting up the shootout.
“Whenever you have a homestand, you want to go at least .500 on it,’’ Savard said. “That was our last chance in the third period. We went out there and just played hockey. It felt great.’’